No plans to reinstate mask mandate on Block Island

South County

NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WPRI) — After backlash from the business community, the Block Island Town Council is now moving away from plans to reinstate a mask mandate.

On Thursday, the council voted to draft a resolution that would encourage or request that people wear face coverings inside public buildings.

Block Island had seen an uptick in COVID cases in recent weeks, according to New Shoreham Medical Director Dr. Thomas Warcup, who noted at a meeting Monday 11 new positive cases had been linked to the island over a two-week period. The island had 45 total cases of coronavirus last summer.

But Thursday, Warcup said the town had only seen three additional cases, bringing the island’s three-week total to 14 cases, which he called “a hopeful sign.”

“What I was fearful of is that original 11 had exposed other people, that those individuals now would become positive,” Dr. Warcup said Thursday. “We haven’t seen that yet, which is truly remarkable.”

Warcup also said 60 people were vaccinated on the island Thursday. That’s an increase compared to the average vaccination rate, which Warcup says is about 20-40 people per day.

During Thursday’s meeting, Block Island business owners spoke about the protocols they already have in place to prevent infections, like testing employees and having them wear masks.

“I think everyone is headed in the right direction, and are on the same page. And if I were a tourist, or I was a summer resident out there, I’d feel pretty good about going out to dinner,” said William McCombe, New Shoreham EMA Director. “We’re very proactive, and we’re going to continue to be.”

The discussion comes in the wake of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance about indoor mask-wearing regardless of vaccination status.

The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance encouraging face masks on Monday.

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